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More stringent QoS norms expected from TRAI soon

State-level reports every quarter for service quality and artificial intelligence-based solutions may be officially mandated as part of a set of more stringent, updated quality-of-service (QoS) norms by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) soon.

The new norms will also factor in user experience for 5G networks, officials informed Business Standard.

In February, TRAI asked telecommunication (telecom) service providers (TSPs) to submit updates on measures taken to reduce call drops and lags and raise the quality of connection. It had specifically asked companies to submit state-level data every quarter.

“The decision was taken since there was a major lag in the data submitted by telecom companies. Now, this will be officially made part of QoS norms to ensure optimal results. They (TSPs) were initially unwilling but have now begun submitting data,” said a TRAI official.

Currently, TSPs submit QoS data in line with License Service Area, and in some cases, these overlap multiple states. TRAI monitors the performance of various services provided by TSPs by collecting a performance monitoring report every quarter. It also conducts audits to assess the performance of TSPs in respect of the prescribed QoS benchmark through independent agencies.

Officials said TRAI will also call a meeting on the issue next month. In their past meetings on the issue, the TSPs have cited factors such as poor quality of handsets and rampant usage of unauthorised signal boosters and jammers, among others, affecting user experience.

Availability of sites at desired locations, government establishments and public places, and exorbitant charges by certain civic bodies towards infrastructure creation, which affect the effective roll-out of infrastructure and quality of service, has also been flagged by the industry.

Tightening parameters
The TRAI Act, 1997, authorises the regulator with exclusive powers to ensure QoS, conduct periodic reviews, and protect consumer interests. It last launched a consultation paper reviewing network-related QoS for cellular mobile telephony services back in 2016.

However, despite attempts to rectify the issue, the government had been unable to act on it based on existing parameters, pointed out officials.

This has been because TSPs have continued to mostly meet the benchmark for most QoS parameters because of averaging the performance for the entire service area, even as a large number of consumers complain because of poor quality of experience.

The existing parameters include network availability, accessibility of connection establishment, ease of connection maintenance, and point of interconnection congestion, with a series of sub-parameters.

TRAI has set minimum benchmarks for these over one month in a fixed service area.

TRAI had earlier pointed out that this performance averaged for the entire service area may give a different picture about QoS than what a customer sees, with many areas or localities within the service area with significantly worse service.

As a result, a major tightening of the rules through much more detailed parameters is set to be suggested by the Department of Telecommunications. However, officials did not comment on whether they anticipate such a crackdown will see a pushback by TSPs.

Focus on 5G
Meanwhile, the government has also planned to launch an independent QoS test for 5G, said officials. The first test may be akin to the periodic drive tests conducted by TRAI nationwide to assess the network quality provided by TSPs for voice and data services.

“At a time when massive strides are being made in bringing 5G technology to India, and TSPs are ramping up their infrastructure, it is unacceptable that a large number of complaints over quality issues continue to come in, even from major urban areas,” said a senior official.

However, TSPs asked for more time to iron out connectivity issues, stating that 5G infrastructure was being established at a quick pace across the country. Business Standard

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